A caustic exposé of the devious influences of pseudo-amateurism in sport
H. H. ROXBOROUGH
IN EVERY age since the original Olympics of twentyfive centuries ago, in every clime from Greenland’s icy mountains to India’s coral strand, whenever and wherever men have compared athletic records and competed for titles and rewards, the problem of separating the simon-pure money-spurners from the black sheep grubbers after lucre has been one of vexation and anxiety.
Admitting the fact, why should it cause apprehension? Why need anyone worry when a youthful star barters his ability to skate fast or knock homers over the distant fence?
The singer cashes in on his musical notes; the artist commercializes his talent for spreading paint; the sculptor sells his skill in knocking chips off the old block. Why, then, should the gifted athlete be criticized when he capitalizes his physical prowess? He shouldn’t. No one can deny the right of any player to receive dollars for his athletic ability.
And furthermore—contrary to general belief—the discord in the sport world is not aroused by either the twenty-four carat amateur or the hundred per cent professional, for each has his place in modern play and each recognizes the other.
An acute problem, however, does exist because some players enlist under one flag and then fight under the other. They subscribe to amateur principles, play with organizations who believe that sport should not be used for financial gain, enjoy the opportunities and honors conferred by affiliation with world-wide amateur federations—and at the same time they rob their hosts, spurn the ideals of their sponsors, swear falsely to amateur affidavits and accept money for their athletic efforts.
Naturally, all genuinely amateur organizations are keen to detect and reject these dishonest members. Detection, however, is difficult when the individuals who possess knowledge concerning fraudulent amateurs are themselves often enough equally guilty with the accused, and in any event do not like to be considered “squealers.” Consequently, this sore spot in sport has spread.
Recently a commission considered the whole question of purifying amateur play, and its conclusions have revealed amazing conditions.
For more than three years this commission working under the direction of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, carefully examined the machinery of sport in 130 leading educational institutions in United States and Canada. Their report, recently published, is one of the most startling documents ever associated with organized play.
(CRITICIZING the educational institutions of the United States, the Carnegie Foundation frankly affirms that in secondary schools “where ideals should be to prepare for college and for life, young lads were subjected to temptations and inducements not conducive to honesty or scholarship.”
In many communities, it was stated, high schools had been built around basketball courts—one Indiana high school with an enrollment of ninety had a gymnasium seating 1,200 spectators, and another centre with an enrollment of twenty-six and a population of 258 had accommodation at the school gymnasium for 1,000 onlookers. Thus school athletics ceased to be an affair of
the school and became a community amusement directed by town leaders.
Not only was the student’s sense of values distorted by the commercialization of school sports, but their physical well-being was also impaired by long trips and too frequent or too hard contests. At one high school, the schedule in one year included thirty basketball games, thirty track meets and fifteen relay races; another school engaged in twenty-five basketball
matches and twenty-six swimming meets in one year. While the schools were placing more emphasis on athletics than on scholarships, the youthful stars were “burning out,” and one of the many reported incidents refers to a schoolboy who, after completing seasons of football and basketball, entered a spring athletic meet and in one afternoon participated in three races, the broadjump and the javelin throw.
This undue prominence given to high school athletics, the commercialization of school games and the too numerous competitions are certainly undesirable; but possibly the greatest harm ensues when the schoolboy realizes that colleges will buy his athletic ability and will often accept his entrance without scholastic qualifications. So, before the young football player enters a higher school he begins “shopping around.” The Carnegie researchers found one identical “peddling” enquiry in the files of five different United States universities, while another brilliant letter-writer ad-
mitted receiving fifty-eight answers to his athletic tender. Still another bright lad who was eagerly sought by the colleges boasted that he had been generously entertained from one to three times by every university in a large conference, while many others were honored with free trips and invitations to parties or dinners at fraternity houses.
The schoolboy shopper, however, was not “forever chasing bubbles” when he advertised his merits, for the investigators reported that in seventytwo per cent of the higher institutions special favors were extended to the promising athlete. These inducements were so varied in type that it would be futile ever again to suggest that a university education destroyed originality. In some colleges the subsidy took the form of such sinecure positions as janitors, towel dispensers or swimming guards. Compensation ranged up to seventyfive cents an hour, and during the unavoidable absence of the student players, substitute workers were readily secured and paid. One instance of this species of subsidy was discovered at the University of Wisconsin, where seventeen athletes appeared on the payrolls as trainers and rubbers, receiving an average monthly wage of $33.67.
The Bonus System
AN ALLIED species of “athlete ^ inducement” was classified as off-campus subsidies. It was quite apparent that at many universities athletic students were bonused by employers who engaged the athletes in the name of insurance and bond salesmen, business agents, sporting goods representatives, advertising solicitors, motion picture employees, writers, and even companions to children.
Another, and quite general, plan of bonusing the gridiron stars was evidenced in the practice of loaning money to athletes, and about oneseventh of all the interviewed players admitted borrowing funds to assist them through college. Some loans were financed by individuals, others by alumni organizations or citizens’ clubs; but regardless of the source it was fully recognized that “these advances were practically gifts and that the borrowers regarded them as grants, felt little responsibility for repayments, and did not fear prosecutions for default.” A confirmation of this was given to me by a student athlete in a United States college, who admitted that he owed “somebody” $1,400 for his education.
Still another, and perhaps the most common, scheme of “covering-up” the bonuses to player-students was disclosed in the awarding of special scholarships in which athletic ability is a particular qualification. At New York University seventy-five such scholarships were available; Stanford University had fifty awards; the University of Southern California had $40,000 set apart. Other colleges definitely distributed “athletic scholarships” frankly so-called, and Colgate had twenty-five, Pennsylvania State College seventy-five, while Syracuse University distributed $14,000. Still another group of colleges, without regard for any scholarship, definitely contributed to its needy athletes, and in an extreme instance Washington and Jefferson Colleges had at one time an annual revenue of between twenty-five and fifty thousand dollars, and from this fund paid the college expenses of all football players and issued pay checks to its leading performers.
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But the subsidization of the player is not all; the comparative superiority of matter over mind is also indicated by the salaries paid to coaches. At fifty-eight large colleges the head football coaches received an annual salary of $6,500, while professors in the same institutions averaged $6,000. Not only are individual coaches paid as much as $14,000 a year, but the entire coaching cost in some universities represents a larger annual amount than the interest on a milliondollar endowment.
Consequently, the Carnegie Foundation investigators will be well supported in their conclusion that “the paid coach, the high gate receipts, the special training tables, the recruiting from high school, the demoralizing publicity showered on the players, the devotion of an undue proportion of time to training, the devices for putting a desirable athlete, but a weak scholar across the hurdles of the examinations—these ought to stop.”
What of Canada?
SO MUCH for conditions in the United States. What about Canada? Well, after carefully searching records and experiences at Laval, Dalhousie, McGill, Ottawa, Queen’s, Toronto and Saskatchewan Universities, the investigators almost shouted their praise of our wholesome athletic atmosphere.
True, Queen’s was included in the list of those institutions where "the responsibility of finding employment for athletes devolved upon those who corresponded with athletic prospects,” and “the commercialized management of some of the hockey series between Canadian university teams and those in Boston, New York and Chicago” was regretted. McGill University received a demerit mark because its professional coach, Shaughnessy, occupied a spectator’s seat at games, but had telephonic communication with the players’ bench on the sidelines; and while Dalhousie, Queen’s and Toronto were accused by sister institutions of relaxing requirements for participation, the charges were proved unjustified.
But, with these comparatively mild exceptions, Canada “came clean.” The report assures us that "Canadian universities have absorbed some of the traditions, practices and operations of the notable universities of Oxford and Cambridge.” It was also suggested that "the needy athlete is comparatively rare in Canada, because a far larger proportionof the students come from the more prosperous families and are maintained entirely by their families,” but even where the needy athlete does exist, he does not expect special consideration.
The report also commended Canadian Universities for the absence of player scouting. But if one of our universities has not used the services of some excellent judges of rugby material, it has certainly been favored with a degree of fortune that almost passes human comprehension. It might also prove disconcerting to the investigators to appreciate that, while Canadian universities do not overemphasize athletics, Toronto is contemplating erecting additional stands to double the present capacity of its stadium, and Queen’s is proceeding with a gymnasium costing $250,000.
Yet, regardless of these minor matters, it should give Canadians considerable pleasure to realize that while only twenty-eight out of a total of 112 colleges were acquitted on charges of bonusing athletes, all seven of the Dominion’s institutions were included in this select group.
But even though our universities are almost “above suspicion,” Canada’s sport problems are not becoming easier. Indeed, there are forces now operating that have never been as strong as they are today.
Never in Canadian sporting history have gate receipts been so large as now: never have athletes received higher pay; never have so many Canadian players joined the professional ranks. Naturally, amateurs have become money-minded; they are quite conscious that athletic ability can command cash, position, luxuries.
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Consider hockey. In Toronto alone there are 10,000 registered hockey players, and proportionately nearly 100,000 Canadian youths must be chasing pucks and slamming goals. Nearly every soldier in that vast army is well aware, through conversation and reading, that some day he may hear the cheers of the roaring fans in the Arena, the Forum or the Gardens, and that he may receive five, ten, or fifteen thousand dollars for his winter’s play. Or, if the player does not wish to lose his amateur status, he knows he may still find refuge in some brokerage house or industrial organization, whose executives are deeply interested in the hockey racket, and who will demonstrate that the laborer is worthy of his hire.
Boxing, Swimming, Tennis, Golf
BOXING, too, has become a moneyed game, and the click of the turnstiles has been as music to the ears of the amateur punch-traders who needed the dough. Winnipeg, for example, is home town to at least six boxers now prominent professionally—Belanger, Snyder, Fontaine, Dillon, Pollock and Battaglia. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are all centres with an international reputation in prize-fighting rings. It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to assume that during his conscious boxing, the amateur lad anticipates the night when he will command $5,000 for a ten round bout, and during his prostrate moments the fighter already has the money in his hands.
Neither are the days of placer-mining completely forgotten, for the swimmers have found an inexpensive method of extracting gold from the water. The Canadian National Exhibition swims and the many shorter races held in Canadian lakes and rivers have lured scores of amateurs from the fold of amateurism. Today, the human fish who formerly swam for joy and glory, now plunges across the deeps with his eyes on the distant shore and his hands outstretched for the bag of coin.
And not only hockey, boxing and swimming are stirring up this money consciousness, but golf and tennis are also adding to the turmoil. You would hardly believe that such an innoont recreation as “cow-pasture pool” could harm amateurism, but it is, and will increasingly become one of the most cash-ridden of sports. How? Well, through the summer months possibly 10,000 boys are carrying clubs and chasing balls over the links of Canada. These lads, prior to the golf epidemic, would have been playing amateur baseball or lacrosse or pitching horseshoes. Instead they are now receiving money for caddying, and are thus impressed with the fact that games do make a substantial financial difference. And they are equally hopeful that after caddying days, they may advance in the profession of golf instructing, and compete in open tournaments for awards in the thousands of dollars.
Tennis, too, provides its amateur problem. Quite recently, the status of prominent French “racketeers” was investigated, and it was explained that the champion tennis players were enabled to devote so much time to the game because the French government, under the guise of favorable propaganda, had contributed to the support of its amateur stars during their tours. The writer is not personally acquainted with the financial arrangements made by Canadian tennis clubs, but the time expended by nationally distinguished players, and the distances travelled by them in pursuit of civic, provincial, national, state and international titles certainly gives rise to speculation as to how it is done.
Our runners and jumpers may not be subjected to the same temptations as other athletes, since gate receipts are not
so large. Yet here, too, there is a real menace, for while the Carnegie Foundation investigators were censuring so many failings of the amateur spirit in United States colleges, some of Canada’s Olympic stars and prospective champions were enrolled in condemned universities. The extent of this migration southward is instanced in the statement that George Peterson and Phil Edwards, a native of British Guiana, but Canadian representative at Amsterdam, are students at New York University; Marquette University at Milwaukee is the alma mater of Jack Walters, Pete Walters, and for a short time was attended by Johnny Fitzpatrick and Ralph Adams, who later returned to Toronto, and by Ray Lewis who is back in Hamilton; Victor Pickard pole-vaults in the colors of Pittsburgh University, while Fred MacBeth, jr., and Alex Wilson are among those present when the Notre Dame University track team goes into battle.
So, in hockey, boxing, swimming, golf, tennis, and track athletics, an increasingly vigorous challenge is being hurled at the defenders of amateur principles. And this threat does not arise particularly in the more populous cities of Eastern Canada, for the most serious threat flourishes most strongly in Western Canada.
In Manitoba, for instance, cash prizes are commonly offered for baèeball tournaments, and such centres as Treherne, Souris or Virden regularly distribute sums up to $1,500 for the winners in a single series. In Winnipeg, a league operating in the name of an amateur organization had no “mental anguish” when playing games with a colored team from Havana, Cuba, and the House of David team from Benton Harbor, Michigan, both professional clubs. Western basketball, too, has a decidedly commercial tinge and even softball tournaments are now offering cash spoils to the winners.
What does this trend to professionalism portend? Is it desirable or undesirable?
Although the Carnegie Foundation investigators gave our universities an excellent amateur rating there is, obviously^ a rapidly increasing tendency off the campus to associate play with pay. Is this trend likely to injure Canadian sport?
The answer is: Yes and no.
If this dangling money-bait tempts many more amateurs, then a growing number of amateur clubs will be compelled to withdraw from sport through the resulting deficiency in playing material. Then, too, if the professional clubs accept the application of every ambitious player there must soon appear an army of unemployed athletes who have been rejected by the moneyed ranks and who, in the process of trials, will be forever debarred from amateur circles. Thus many young men at the peak of physical ability would be unable to enjoy the thrills of organized athletic competition. So the association of money and play might be quite harmful to our sport.
But there is also an opposite possibility. The increasing opportunity for athletes to openly and honorably receive financial rewards for athletic prowess will undoubtedly “smoke out” many “shamateurs” whose presence and actions on amateur teams invite caustic criticism concerning the honesty of simon-pure sport. Then, too, the strength of this money magnet will attract many players who will thus be saved from the temptation of accepting money and then annually making false affidavits when applying for the amateur registration card.
The real sportlover greatly admires both the honest amateur and the sincere professional but hates with a righteous indignation, the hypocritical tax-collector who masquerades as one who plays solely for the joy of the game. If the present trend tends to purify amateurism it will in no uncertain degree merit support.